The National Rifle Association is politically brilliant, utterly so.
If our political officeholders were as smart as the gun lobbyists who cow them and control them, this country would face no insurmountable obstacle.
The week began with a madman murdering 58 persons and injuring more than 500 by firing modified semi-assault weapons in machine-gun style from a 32nd-floor window of a hotel into an outdoor concert crowd in Las Vegas.
It ended with the NRA, naïvely thought by some to be in a tough political spot, appearing to be making a rare concession that wasn't a concession at all.
In executing the faux concession, the NRA arranged to spare the fearful and pliant Republican Congress any troubling votes. Those fearful and pliant Republicans won't have to cast any vote earning a bad grade in mailers back home from a gun-lobby organization even to the right of the NRA.
Yes, there is a gun lobby more zealous than the NRA. The Gun Owners Association of America, incredibly, opposes any restriction on these highly affordable and easy-to-attach "bump stocks" used in Vegas. These devices turn semiautomatic assault weapons, which ought to be banned themselves, into near-machine guns, which are outlawed.
The NRA publicly called for tighter regulations on those devices, but not a bill or a law.
By couching the fix as regulatory rather than statutory--as something the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms rather than Congress could handle--the NRA, beyond sparing the Republican Congress a vote, laid the original blame for loose regulations on the Obama administration.
The convenience of blaming the Obama administration ought to make it infinitely easier--even fun--for the Trump administration to tighten those regulations.
Finally, the NRA advanced what it really wants--a new federal reciprocity law allowing persons with concealed-carry permits to carry those concealed weapons into states that don't have concealed-carry permissions.
Republicans in Congress would have done as commanded by the NRA on that, anyway, although the Las Vegas horror would have made any such vote harder. But the NRA-conceived strategy to deflect the Vegas complication by tightening regulations on the newly reviled "bump stocks" will make it less worrisome for congressional Republicans to put concealed guns into more holsters from coast to coast.
If it all works as the NRA designs:
• "Bump stocks" will be blamed on Barack Obama and largely eliminated by simple regulation.
• Guns will proliferate.
• Republicans will crow to their gun-loving constituencies, with NRA backing, that they got the bad devices banished while putting the good ones into more hands in more places.
Is it true that the Obama administration's ATF is to blame for "bump stocks?"
You can argue that. A manufacturer asked in 2010 for permission by regulation to make and sell them, explaining they would make it easier for disabled people to fire semiautomatic weapons.
The ATF decided the devices contained no characteristics making the guns to which they were attached "automatic" as defined by the legal ban on automatic weapons. It concluded the device was a "gun part," not a gun, and that it had no regulatory power over gun parts.
Yes, the Obama administration could have proposed a bill to ban the devices, which Republicans would have opposed.
Until this week, most of us hadn't concerned ourselves with those devices because we'd never heard of them.
It turns out that the most prescient news analysis piece of the week came Monday from Politico. It explained that, in times of heightened gun-rights passion, the NRA tends to stay silent for a few days, observe the public reaction and then fashion its best response amid the emerging public mood.
In this case, the NRA clearly decided it needed to join the chorus against "bump stocks," but that, in turn, it could use the opportunity to finagle to get more guns sold and in circulation.
It did the same kind of thing early this year in Arkansas.
State Rep. Charlie Collins had his bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Gov. Asa Hutchinson resisted a bit, saying he would insist on additional concealed-carry training requirements for those taking guns onto college campuses.
The NRA pondered that and decided it could both support Collins' bill and seemingly acquiesce to Asa's condition. It could do that by going to Little Rock and so frightening Republican legislators with the fatal prospect of less than "A" grades on mailers that they would go along with the NRA's simple amendment.
That amendment provided that, after people took this additional training insisted on by the governor for carrying guns on college campuses, they could use those "enhanced permits" to carry guns practically anywhere in the state.
So, just know: Whenever the NRA appears to have conceded, it has, instead, sold more guns and put them in more places.
You can't beat them, certainly not with the caliber of politicians we have currently.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 10/08/2017
Print Headline: The NRA wins again